The two proposed shipments would require Idaho to “waive” the provision of Governor Batt’s historic 1995 Agreement with DOE specifically forbidding imports of commercial spent nuclear fuel into Idaho. Governors Andrus and Batt have expressed their opposition to any such waiver so long as DOE has not met its obligations under the 1995 Agreement to clean up nuclear wastes at INL, including 900,000 gallons of liquid wastes still in aging tanks above the Snake River Plain Aquifer.
The comments were prepared for the governors by Laird J. Lucas, a Boise attorney with Advocates for the West, in response to a “Supplement Analysis” that DOE released for public comment in June 2015 for the proposed shipments.
The governors assert that the DOE document is wholly inadequate to satisfy the federal agency’s obligations to disclose and explain its actions to the public. The comments explain that DOE is wrongly trying to rely on 20-year-old studies that address only handling of defense wastes at INL, and never considered shipments of spent nuclear fuel from commercial utilities, as DOE now plans.
In the comments, Lucas also faulted DOE for misleading the public into believing that Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have already signed off on the waiver of the Batt Agreement to allow the proposed shipments.
Saying that is simply not true, Lucas pointed to a letter from February 27th 2015, in which Attorney General Wasden made clear no waiver would be granted until DOE has first resolved disposal of the 900,000 gallons of liquid waste. Every plan to do so has run into problems and DOE is years away from having a solution.
Lucas also released DOE's response to a detailed Freedom of Information Act request that Governor Andrus sent to the Department in January. It contained specific questions regarding decisions obviously already made by DOE regarding the shipments of spent fuel rods prior to any environmental analysis or public input.
“The response is a joke,” Lucas said. “They have redacted almost all their supposed answers and are claiming national security concerns on almost every question. Literally, DOE has not produced a single document that was not already public,” violating the Freedom of Information Act. Lucas requested that DOE extend the comment period until after all requested documents are made available. He added that he would recommend Governor Andrus file a suit over DOE’s violations of FOIA, stating: "We will see what a Federal Judge has to say.”
Lucas also pointed out that the Department is now acknowledging earlier statements by Governor Andrus contending that much more than 200 pounds of spent fuel rods are being considered for shipment to INL was in fact correct. The followup plan calls for 20 metric tons.
“The bottom line is DOE continues to procrastinate and prevaricate. They must fully disclose to the public what their plans are,” Lucas concluded.